Humanizing Online Learning for Nursing Students

This is a guest post written by Nursing Educator and VoiceThreader, Joe Gomulak-Cavicchio EdD.

My first experience with VoiceThread came as an Educational Technology master’s student. I was learning about how to use it with K-12 students. However, I was thrilled to see it being used when I moved to higher education and jumped at the change to use VoiceThread in my own class. I knew when I was developing my completely asynchronous course, Integrating Technology in Nursing Education, it was going to play a prominent role.

Up to that point, I heard that graduate nursing students do not like online learning and they prefer face-to-face classes because it allows them the space to connect and have interactions with one another. Additionally, I knew from my own experience as a student, trying to juggle work, home, and school was quite the task and that I wasn’t always ready to engage with course content when a synchronous class occurred. I knew these graduate nursing students were working all different shifts and were not always going to be able to put forth their best effort. Therefore, I felt that if students were able to find ways to connect and humanize the other participants in the course that they could find online learning an enjoyable experience.

I knew I wanted to have weekly discussion boards and wanted to use VoiceThread. This would give us a chance to see and hear each other. However, the question I asked myself was, is this enough? Are we really connected? Then I did what all teachers do and thought about my experience as a student. As a face-to-face student we would spend the beginning parts of class sharing any news we had. Voila, I knew that this was going the start of how we were going to connect. I knew that if this was going to be a success I had to be a part of sharing good news.

However, sharing news was only a piece of the puzzle, I wanted something more, something to get more of my personality out there so students could really feel like they knew me. That is when I decided to share a joke with my class as a part of these weekly sharing discussion. I am not talking about the witty type of jokes that make you think, I am talking the ones that make you groan because they are so bad.

My wife and I met at the glue factory where we both worked.

We bonded immediately.

To my delight, this approach was a huge hit. Students would come on and before diving into the content they would comment on the joke, share one of their own, or just share good news. We all had a good laugh especially when a joke was delivered with utter seriousness. Students have also felt comfortable sharing if they are having a tough time because of the tone and connection that has been set.

The amazing thing is that this connection has extended beyond this class. I have had former students email me and share jokes when the come across a particularly groan-worthy one. Some former students have even shared that they have downloaded daily joke apps and share them with their coworkers during a pre-shift huddle.

About the Author:

Joe (@TechInNursingEd) is an assistant professor of clinical nursing, instructional designer, coordinator for online learning, and ADA access coordinator at the University of Rochester School of Nursing, where he has been for the past 8 years. He enjoys finding new and fun ways to engage with students online and in person